Girls With Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog #scifi

The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardians, the all-girl boarding school offers an array of studies and activities, from “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden” to “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design.” The girls learn to be the best society has to offer. Absent is the difficult math coursework, or the unnecessary sciences or current events. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena starts to realize that their carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears.

As Mena and her friends begin to uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations will find out what they are truly capable of. Because some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.

Truth – I was skeptical about this book because of the cover, but then I saw the author’s name and read the blurb, which has a kind of Stepford Wives feel.  Friends, I couldn’t put this book down.

The description is maddening enough for women, but trust me – your blood pressure will reach new heights once you read about the way these girls are treated.  At 400 pages, it’s long, but it certainly didn’t feel like it.  I wanted to finish it in one sitting – it’s that compelling, and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.  Some of the interactions between the men and the students will make your skin crawl, but the friendships between the girls are strong, wonderful, and will make you wish for that kind of bond.  Everyone deserves friends like these.

This is a dark, twisty novel, and some scenes are tough to read.  But it’s also empowering when the girls realize their world is skewed very much in the bizarre and unnatural direction, and then decide to regain control.  I’m anxious to see what happens next.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.  I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson #bookreview #YA #scifi

When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves. But their solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected. 

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

My book club requirement was to read a YA book optioned for movie/TV, and The Sandcastle Empire was snatched up by Paramount before its release date.  And I’d just bought it during a Bookbub promotion a couple of months ago so, an obvious choice.

The beginning of this book is absolutely captivating, and I fell hard for it.  An exciting escape on the beach, explosions, stolen boats with questionable traveling companions – I couldn’t read fast enough.  Once Eden reaches the island – wow.  If you’re a Lost fan, this island will bring back memories.  After one night on the beach, a character is missing – grabbed while everyone slept.  Eden and the other two girls trek through the mysterious jungle in search of her and experience extraordinary occurrences.  Color me enthralled.

Then the storyline ventures into familiar tropes:  insta-love, girls more focused on cute boys than on their fight for survival and appearing helpless – after they’d just braved a life-threatening, danger-filled trek through the jungle without the help of the male persuasion.

The world-building is fantastic, the writing descriptive, and the plot original, if a little predictable in some places.  Overall, I enjoyed the read, but hoped the plot would concentrate more on the science fiction/dystopian aspects of the story as in the first half, rather than introduce distracting romantic elements.

 

The Tesla Legacy by K.K. Perez #bookreview #YA #scifi

THE TESLA LEGACY follows a precocious young scientist named Lucy Phelps whose fateful encounter in the Tesla Suite of the New Yorker Hotel unlocks her dormant electrical powers. As Lucy struggles to understand her new abilities through scientific experimentation, she is thrust into a centuries old battle between rival alchemical societies.

One side wants her help and the other wants her dead, but both believe she is the next step in human evolution. Unfortunately, carriers of the genetic mutation—including Nikola Tesla—have a greatly reduced life expectancy. Even if Lucy can outrun her enemies, she can’t outrun herself.

Admittedly, I’m a science nerd, and when I see the name Tesla (not the car), I get excited – that’s what drew me to this book.

A lot is packed into this novel – Lucy’s typical high school life rapidly turns into a tug of war between two agencies trying to ‘win’ her.  Unfortunately, one of those groups isn’t too concerned with her survival.  There’s a good bit of science talk that may throw off some readers, but it’s pertinent to the story and explained well.

I loved that Lucy is an unabashed science geek, heavily into STEM, and isn’t afraid to display her intelligence.  Her numerous pop culture references to Star Trek, Wonder Woman, etc., also made me smile.  Lucy’s sense of betrayal and confusion of who she should trust is portrayed well.  I did feel that some repetition regarding relationships in the middle of the book slowed the pace somewhat, but it turned into a whirlwind race near the end.

If you enjoy reality-based sci-fi with a splash of X-Men and a pinch of The Davinci Code, I’d recommend The Tesla Legacy.  It’s action-packed, with some surprising twists.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.

Dealing in Dreams by Lilliam Rivera #bookreview #dystopian #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

At night, Las Mal Criadas own these streets.

Nalah leads the fiercest all-girl crew in Mega City. That roles brings with it violent throw downs and access to the hottest boydega clubs, but the sixteen-year-old grows weary of the life. Her dream is to get off the streets and make a home in the exclusive Mega Towers, in which only a chosen few get to live. To make it to the Mega towers, Nalah must prove her loyalty to the city’s benevolent founder and cross the border in a search for a mysterious gang the Ashé Ryders. Led by a reluctant guide, Nalah battles other crews and her own doubts, but the closer she gets to her goal, the more she loses sight of everything—and everyone— she cares about.

Nalah must do the unspeakable to get what she wants—a place to call home. But is a home just where you live? Or who you choose to protect?

All girl gangs, throw downs, and a quest?  This description was unlike anything I’d read before, and with this beautiful cover, I couldn’t resist.

Such intriguing and creative world-building.  Mega City is a matriarchal society led by a beloved woman, and men are primarily considered secondary citizens.  It’s a gritty, dangerous way of life, with gangs gaining power and moving up the food chain through physical battles against each other.  At the age of seven, girls are sent to soldier training camps.  Many of the citizens are hooked on pills that induce lucid dreaming, and are also a used as a form of payment.  It’s not an easy way of life by any means.  The only thing I had difficulty buying into was eleven and twelve-year-old girls having the capacity to take down much older teens – it just seemed too young.

Nalah and her gang are tightly bonded, and consider each other family.  The dynamics between the crew are messy, heartfelt, and difficult at times, but completely realistic.  Nalah’s strong loyalty to them and need to secure their futures through obtaining a spot in The Towers is the driving focus of the story – until some hard truths are revealed.  Her character arc is sensational, and really made the story for me.  Her journey from having such strong beliefs about herself and her environment to questioning everything she thought she knew is compelling.

Dealing in Dreams is dark at times, full of action and surprising revelations, and a book I’d recommend to dystopia and sci-fi fans.  This book is scheduled for publication March 5, 2019.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the digital ARC.

 

The Last 8 (The Last 8 #1) by Laura Pohl #bookreview #YA #scifi

A high-stakes survival story about eight teenagers who outlive an alien attack—perfect for fans of The 5th Wave 

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the only reason she isn’t among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it. 

When Clover hears an inexplicable radio message, she’s shocked to learn there are other survivors—and that they’re all at the former Area 51. When she arrives, she’s greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren’t the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The group seems more interested in hiding than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But then she finds a hidden spaceship, and she doesn’t know what to believe…or who to trust.

I’m always up for a good alien invasion story.  When you toss in Area 51, a handful of surviving teens, and an adorable canine named Sputnik, it becomes a must read for me.

This book gives the reader just enough time to care about Clover before throwing her in front of the aliens, so the pacing gets off to a good start.  It slows a bit once she reaches Area 51 due to drama between her and the other teens before picking up again.  I felt like there was some character inconsistency on Clover’s part, with comments and actions coming out of the blue based on her prior behavior.  The group of survivors are wonderfully diverse, but some of their voices are similar and I had trouble distinguishing between them.

As a sci-fi geek, the pop culture references to Back to the Future and Independence Day had me doing happy dances.  For me, it’s difficult to read or watch any alien story without thinking about Independence Day, and this novel contains some similar elements.

The Last 8 is strong out of the gate, drops intriguing clues throughout the book, and has interesting twists toward the end, but some plot holes and character inconsistencies slowed the momentum for me.  This book is scheduled for release March 1st, 2019.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.

 

Extra Innings: Can You Go Home Again? by Don Massenzio #bookreview #timetravel #scifi

Joe McLean hates his life. A lonely, divorced, middle-aged man, stuck in a cramped apartment, the only bright spot in Joe’s life is cheering on his hometown baseball team. Now, the local stadium, the place of many childhood and adult memories is being replaced. Joe desperately wants a piece of this iconic venue to preserve his memories and have some memorabilia from his happier past. That’s when unusual things begin to happen, and Joe begins to rethink the direction his life has taken. Can Joe take a different path in life? Can he use the special ability that he has acquired to change the course of his life? Will he realize the truth about old adage, you can never go home again? Follow the twists and turns in this supernatural story, Extra Innings, to find out.

When I first saw the cover for this book, not being a sports fan, I nearly passed on it.  But when I read the blurb and saw it was about time travel, I snatched it right up.

I immediately wanted to root for Joe.  With a failed marriage, a thankless, dead-end job, and not much to go home to at night, the guy deserves some happiness.  Upon realizing the seat he purchased from a baseball stadium that held wonderful memories for him is a time machine, endless possibilities are at his fingertips.  If you could travel back in time, what would you change about your life?  Anything?  Would those changes have unexpected ripple effects?

Joe encounters several surprises along the way, and I laughed out loud at some situations he found himself in.  Extra Innings is a fabulous, enjoyable story with several layers to include family drama, organized crime, and corporate mergers, and I was captivated throughout.  The ending isn’t something I expected, but will leave you thinking about it for days after.

Book Tour: Stuck (Stitch Trilogy #3) by Samantha Durante #YA #SciFi #giveaway

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

I read the first two books in this series when I began blogging over five years ago, and was immediately hooked.  But then the author took a break from writing, and I feared I’d never know what happened to these characters.  Last month, she contacted me about this new release, and I was thrilled to learn she’d completed the series – can’t wait to dive into this book!

Stuck
(Stitch Trilogy #3)
By Samantha Durante
YA Dystopian, SciFi
Paperback & ebook, 306 Pages
December 15, 2018

3, 2, 1… BOOM.

Things are finally looking up for the Resistance. Sure, Alessa is still processing the revelation that the best friend she’d presumed dead is miraculously alive, though far from well… And her boyfriend is being manipulated under threat of blackmail. But her quest for justice against those behind the systematic extermination of the world population is so close to victory she can taste it.

And then in a matter of seconds, everything Alessa believes in is shaken to the core. Months of preparation are obliterated. The people she cares for most are lost.

But Alessa is still standing. And Paragon must pay.

The odds are grim, but unexpected allies surface in the most unlikely of places: A new pair of citizens still under the colony’s rule who notice something amiss in the latest drama. An old adversary who realizes the error of her ways. And a veritable army of inhuman power and terrible strength, with an insatiable thirst for vengeance. The trustworthiness of each of these factions is yet to be proven, but without many other options, Alessa may have to take what she can get. Especially since the Engineers, never to be outdone, also have a few more tricks up their sleeves…

The long-awaited final installment in the riveting Stitch Trilogy, Stuck will have readers gripping their seats as Alessa and a handful of intrepid survivors usher their harrowing journey to a close, risking everything as they endeavor – once and for all – to set things right.

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwordsKobo

Other Books in the Series

Quiz: Where Do You Rank in Paragon Society?

Over the course of the Stitch Trilogy, we’ve gotten to know several different groups within the society of Paragon, from plucky rebels and manipulated citizens to mastermind Engineers and bloodthirsty Stuck.  Where do you fall amongst these ranks?  Take this quick quiz to find out!

Which of the following drives you most crazy?

A. Interruptions in your regularly scheduled TV programming
B. Injustice or exploitation of any kind
C. Finding a piece of cork in your wine
D. Insubordination
E. A craving you just can’t seem to satisfy

How are/were your grades in school?

A. Pretty average
B. Poor – I was too busy with extracurriculars to do homework
C. Excellent
D. School? Waste of time. I put my genius right to work raking in billions
E. Can’t seem to remember…

What’s your biggest vice?

A. I’m high all the time
B. An addiction to righteous indignation
C. Overindulgence (in food, alcohol, sex, all of it)
D. Lies, lies, and more lies
E. An insatiable thirst for violence

What’s your ultimate goal in life?

A. To follow the rules, live simply, and enjoy it
B. To make the world a better place, for everyone
C. To make the world a better place, for those who deserve it
D. To make the world a better place, for those who deserve it, especially me
E. To exact revenge on those who’ve hurt you

What’s your favorite food?

A. Anything heavy and cheesy, yum!
B. Really whatever I can get my hands on that’s not laced with drugs
C. A nice steak dinner
D. Who needs food when you have power?
E. The blood of my enemies (or whoever, really)

Mostly A’s – Citizen
You beat the odds and survived the apocalypse.  Now, you just want to relax: do whatever menial job you’re assigned each day, veg out in front of the latest drama episode at night, dig into some comforting hot entrees, and enjoy the resulting chemical cocktail of mild 24/7 euphoria.  Exploitation?  Abuses of power?  You don’t know nothin’ about any of that – and you’ve earned that ignorance.  Just keep floating along on your comfy little boat of naïveté, keep your head down, and ride out the rest of your years in security.

Mostly B’s – Rebel
Somehow you got wind of some nasty stuff going down behind the scenes in your supposedly peaceful compound, and you are not having it.  You’re not quite sure *who* is behind all the monkey business, but you refuse to sit by and be complicit.  Sure, you may be putting your life on the line by taking a stand, but who wants to live in a cesspool of lies and manipulation anyway?  Just remember, whatever you do, be careful what you eat!

Mostly C’s – Ruling Class
You’re one of Paragon’s best and brightest – and you know it.  Tasked with determining how things should operate in your newfound civilization, your brain is toiling all day, every day, for the benefit of all society.  So don’t you deserve a little break every now and then?  A bottle of wine, a lavish meal, a little, um, companionship (never mind if she’s willing – she wouldn’t be here if she wasn’t, right?).  You’ve earned it.  Without you, all those ingrate citizens would have torn each other to pieces by now.  Aren’t you owed a few perks of their labor?  Work hard, play hard – that’s your motto.

Mostly D’s – Engineer
A former titan of industry, you’ve got brains – and ambition – for days.  You recognized that the figurative ship was sinking, and your self-preservation instincts kicked into overdrive, ensuring that *at least* those who were worthy made it onto a lifeboat (naturally, that included you!).  Of course, there were some sacrifices necessary along the way (usually someone else’s, ::shrug::), but that’s the cost of being true to your ideals.  Some may call you a genocidal maniac, but they’re only seeing half the story.  You’re a genocidal maniac with a heart of gold!

Mostly E’s – Stuck
You were human once, you think.  It’s hard to remember when you’re battling that constant thirst for blood and carnage.  At one time you had hobbies, loved ones, dreams; now you’re more muscle and fury than anything.  But you still have your pastimes: a rousing romp in the forest, munching on a freshly torn-off limb, giving the prison guards a good old fashioned fright.  And if there’s one thing that really gets you going, it’s vengeance!  The trouble is, you can’t seem to remember who to direct all that anger at… and goodness help any innocent soul who gets in your way!

So, where did you land??  Share in the comments!

About the Author
Samantha lives in Westchester County, New York with four of the five loves of her life – her husband, son, younger daughter, and cat – and carries her fifth love, her stillborn daughter, in her heart. An avid reader herself, Samantha’s dream is to bring the same delight to readers that other authors have brought to her life. In addition to penning novels and writing candidly about grief, she is also a sometimes freelance writer/consultant – though more often than not these days she’s on full-time mom duty! A former software engineer, Samantha said goodbye to the corporate world in 2010 to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and lifelong love of writing. Learn more at www.samanthadurante.com.
Tour Schedule
December 10th:
December 11th:
December 12th:
December 13th:
December 14th:
December 17th:
December 18th:
December 19th:
December 20th:
December 21st:
December 22nd:
Tour Giveaway

1 First Place Winner will receive: Signed Print Copies of All 3 Books in the Trilogy, a Limited-Edition Stitch Scarf, Bookmarks, and a $15 Amazon Gift Card
3 Second Place Winners will receive: eBook Copies of All 3 Books in the Trilogy for You *and* a Friend, plus a $5 Amazon Gift Card
– Open internationally
– Ends December 27th

Grab Our Button!